The good times are rolling for Hakoah Sydney City East’s creative outlet Andre De Jong as he makes his mark on both sides of the Tasman at domestic and international levels.
The agile Kiwi has been lighting the spark for Hakoah from midfield, with his creativity and goal-scoring feats helping his club build a strong football in the NPL NSW Men’s competition since 2016.
After finishing the 2017 season as Hakoah’s top scorer, De Jong skipped the concept of the off-season, instead opting to return to his motherland to compete in the New Zealand Football Championship, before returning to play for Hakoah where he is again leading the scoring charts.
The fleet-footed attacking midfielder repeats this habit on a yearly basis; having originally returned to play for Canterbury United, he now coincidentally alternates between playing for his Eastern suburbs-based club in Australia and Eastern Suburbs AFC in Auckland.
His unrelenting commitment to the game has not gone unnoticed, earning De Jong a deserved call-up to Fritz Schmid’s All Whites squad in March for his international debut against Canada.
“It was an awesome moment,” beamed De Jong.
“Over in New Zealand we play our National League over the summer, so I’d popped back for that (with Eastern Suburbs AFC) and had a really good season over there.
“On the back of that I’ve have a good start to the season over here, so the call-up was nice.
“As we didn’t make the World Cup there’s lots of retirees making room for a new squad.
“There’s a tour coming up in India as well, so it’ll be interesting to see who they name for that.
“Obviously, I’d miss a couple of games here for Hakoah, which is annoying, but I’d love to be on the Indian tour.
“That’s in early June, so we’ll see who is called up for that New Zealand squad because everyone will be out of the regular season over in Europe.
“It could be quite a stronger squad, so it (my inclusion) may be touch and go, but hopefully I can get the call.”
With his first cap now under his belt, the 21-year-old is proudly following in the footsteps of Fred De Jong, his father, who himself was a New Zealand international and part of a Marconi Stallions team that lifted back to back National Soccer League titles in the late 80s.
After his Marconi days Fred De Jong played in the Netherlands with Fortuna Sittard and eventually competed in the NSL once again with New Zealand’s first professional football club, Football Kingz, while also coaching his son, Andre.
“He coached me right through from five until about seventeen,” explained De Jong.
“It’s really nice to try and follow in his footsteps and make a name for myself over in New Zealand, hopefully I can do just that.
“It’s a bit of a coincidence (that we are both attack-minded players)
“He was an out-and-out striker playing for Marconi, I’m more of an attacking midfielder.
“He did train me up with lots of finishing and shooting drills, but there was never any pressure to play higher up the field.
“I just found my way up there and he’s backed that.”
Hakoah possess a proud history in Australian football having dominated the NSL with a trio of back-to-back championships in the early 1980s.
Almost four decades on they are now seeking to lift their game in the top flight of New South Welsh football having fallen short of the finals since their 2015 promotion.
The 2017 Waratah Cup Winners pulled into traffic of mid-table with a 2-0 win over Bonnyrigg White Eagles over the weekend and will look to build upon a successful week which also saw them dump Sutherland Sharks out of the FFA Cup by the same scoreline.
“We’ve had ups and downs to the start of our season,” said De Jong.
“I think if you can get any sort of consistency in this league then you’ll really start flying up the table, so that’s what we’re trying to aim for.
“On the back of two wins now hopefully we can kick on and achieve that.”
Next up for Hakoah is a visit to tenth placed Rockdale City Suns, who will be hungry to shake off a dismal run of five consecutive matches without a win.
“It’s a very tough game for us,” said De Jong.
“They’re only just below us on the table, and as we’ve seen this season, if you take anyone lightly or don’t turn up on the day then you can be punished.
“We’ll go there with a few injuries, which is a bit annoying, but we’ll really try and take it to them and hopefully we can carry on this winning run we’re in at the moment.”
See Hakoah Sydney City East and their All Whites international Andre De Jong in action against Rockdale City this Sunday. Kick-off 5pm at Ilinden Sports Centre.
– By Michael Shoolman